Saturday, September 24, 2011

Silver linings

Leaving another home -- damn, I hate that part.

Louise, of course, had early morning meetings (she's gonna sleep well this weekend!) on Friday.  Don had left the door open for Ellie again, but it took a certain amount of cajoling to get her into the room this time.  She only stayed on the bed a few minutes before taking up residence at Don's feet -- Don, of course, was eating breakfast, and she didn't want to miss a crumb. :-)

I gave up on Ellie and got out of bed for my coffee.  Then we started packing up our bags and folding up the guest bed.

Ellie was not amused.

She went into Louise's room, curled up on the bed, and wouldn't meet our eyes.  This dog can sulk!

We loaded up the car, to get the suitcases out of view, and sat with our laptops in the living room, catching up on stuff and waiting for Louise to come home from her morning of meetings.  Ellie was happier when she showed up, but was still sulking.

We had a last wee visit with Louise, then big hugs and good-byes.   It was time to head for Edmonton!  An early stop for grande bolds and artisan sandwiches, and then we were on the highway.

The drive from Calgary to Edmonton is quite a bit straighter and flatter than what we'd been driving the previous weeks!  Wide open roads, big sky, and the trees just starting to change colour -- lots of beautiful yellows, the occasional pale oranges, though none of the reds of Ontario.  Apparently the Chinooks around here aren't too good for Maples (or so says Louise, but with the caveat that she doesn't remember where she heard that!).

The drive wasn't too bad, although we did run in to a bit of construction.  As we neared Edmonton, Maria Dunn e-mailed us to let us know of the road closures in the area, and steered us to her house via roads that were actually open.  People are so much more trustworthy than MapQuest. :-)

Maria's in a lovely neighbourhood overlooking parkland, in a cute 2-bedroom bungalow she's lived in for almost nine months -- although, with all her touring (if you don't know her music, check her out!), she feels she's barely gotten used to the place.

We had a couple of hours before she had to head out to a radio interview and we had to get ready for our gig, so we were able to get a nice visit in.  Maria also made us a light meal of sandwiches and salad, which held us all over quite nicely.

Maria dashed off to her interview, leaving us to relax for a while and get dressed for our evening gig -- our load-in wasn't scheduled until 7:15, so we had lots of time.

The route to the venue was easy enough (thank you, Edmonton, for making your grid system an actual grid and understandable system!), with just a bit of slowness as we passed the football stadium.  Though once we got to the area, The Haven was a little tricky to find.  It's a single door entrance to a basement venue, nestled among a block of XXX movie stores, "Adult" entertainment venues and massage parlours.

Er... geez... have we just made a horrible, horrible mistake?!?  What kind of venue is this?  But The Haven Social Club has hosted many respectable folkies -- I don't think they'll expect us to play naked...?

Trepidatiously, we walk down the stairs into the venue.  Alright, there's no pole in the centre of the stage, we're OK!  In fact, it looks downright classy.  Nice stage, tables laid out with chairs facing the stage, lovely artwork on the walls.  No people...  Don't restaurants usually have people?   On a Friday?  Hmmm... maybe it doesn't start hopping until showtime...?

We're starting to understand why Maria previously raised an eyebrow but remained politely silent when we told her where we were playing.

We find a human, who introduces himself as Rob, the bartender for the night.  He's a really nice guy, shows us to the green room, tells us the sound guy will be coming in shortly, unlocks the back door so we can load in our gear from the parking lot.

And that is how we ended up loading our gear in through the door marked "Temptation Massage", and "Your pleasure is our service" written over a semi-erotic cartoon painting on the inside wall.

For the record, we were not tempted. ;-)

Our gear safely stowed away from tempting hands, we grab some water and wait for the sound guy to come and tell us where he wants us.  Our opening act, Lyra Brown, hauls in her keyboard -- assisted by mother and sister, we believe, though they never introduced themselves (neither did she, actually -- perhaps a little lesson in artistic attitude might be helpful, because she spent the rest of the evening unknowingly annoying one artistic director enough to put a "don't bother" stamp in the database, despite her interesting music) -- a local girl who recently won in the Youth category of the Calgary Folk Fest's songwriting contest.  She immediately takes over the stage.

Bryce, the sound guy, comes in shortly after that, politely mentions that he only gives the feature act (us) a full sound check, but she can come 15 minutes before her set to do a line check.

Bryce gets us quickly set up and starts pulling up the sounds -- damn, he's really good!  He's got a fabulous mix up in no time.

It's now about 8:15, cover started at 8:00.  So far, there's one man (who looks kind of familiar, but it's dark looking out from the stage) at one table, plus the local girl's entourage of two.  So much for the local opening act bringing out some new faces for us...  Never mind, we know of a dozen or so people who said they were coming, so at least we'll see some familiar faces -- and maybe once the music starts, other strangers will pour in... you know, those who aren't first tempted by massage or XXX films...  :-)

We head to the back to put together our setlist and not worry about it.  When I emerge to refill my water glass, the single man at the single table has left.  I don't even see a staff member in the room.  This does not bode well...

Last night, we had dozens of people in the room and a crappy sound.  Tonight it looks like we'll have awesome sound and nobody to enjoy it.

Don has a nap in the green room.  I pace.

The opener does her line check... short pause, then we hear her doing something again.  The sound of three hands clapping -- oh dear, she's started.  We decide to be supportive and sit at one of the front tables to listen to her set.  Mom and sis are in the front table, we're second to the front, and... well...  there's Bryce doing sound... and a couple over at the side... and Rob the bartender... and the waitress scurrying around lighting candles on the tables.

We break our usual don't-drink-before-a-show rule and cash in our beer tickets.

Maria comes in part way through the opener and sits with us.  Yes, she nods her head, that is the problem with this venue, there's no built-in crowd, you have to have a following you bring in yourself.  Which, being the first time we've ever set foot in Edmonton, we don't have.  Neither, it seems, does the local opener (perhaps she's pissed off more than artistic directors?).

Our turn.  Well, the show must go on.  Maria goes to sit next to the couple over at the side -- who, it turns out, are Sidney and John, who we met when playing at the Rose & Kettle in Cole Harbour, NS (they were on a year's sabbatical there at the time).  We've got three true fans in the audience, that makes us feel better, at least.  There's another woman sitting behind us now, and look, another man has just walked in, things are looking up!

Except that man and the diva-ette and family stand at the front of the stage, in constant loud conversation all through the first several songs of our set.  I can see Maria's head bobbing in there direction, and she looks like she's about to head over when the two loudest in the group leave and the other two stay to listen for a bit.  Bloodshed is spared. :-)

We do a pretty good set, although it's definitely hard to keep the energy up.  But our three fans enjoy it, the two quieter family members are very complimentary, and the venue's staff are really seeming to enjoy it, as well!  OK, the audience may be small, but they're certainly appreciative!  What the heck, it was a fun evening.

We're able to visit and chat a bit with Sidney and John -- they're terribly apologetic they weren't able to bring more people with them, they'd tried really hard, but many friends were away for the weekend, or had other commitments, there's a bunch of other concerts going on that weekend, AND it's the season opener of one of the (three!) Edmonton folk clubs that night, so all the people who would have really liked our music were probably there instead.

The bad timing bug...

(Although that doesn't quite explain the people who had told us they were coming...)

Rob at the bar is similarly apologetic, and is raving about how much he enjoyed the show.  He says he's going to tell the booker how great we were, says as far as he's concerned, we're welcome back any time, and that next time he'll talk to the booker and make sure we're paired off with a local act who has a big following, because "you guys deserve a much bigger audience!"

The deal at this venue is that the hall keeps the first $250 of the door -- we obviously didn't come anywhere close to that, but the guy at the door has either dipped in to the kitty or taken money out of his own wallet for Rob to give us.  "He felt bad, because you guys are so good, he thought you should at least go home with something!"

So... really pretty venue, really nice staff, super-colossally bad timing -- and, it seems, not the ideal first venue to play for newcomers.  Lesson learned, we'll advise our fellow new-to-Edmonton musicians, and come back some day when we've got a bit more of a following (and it's not a weekend with so much going on!).

We hug Sidney and John good-bye, thank all the staff, and pack up the car.

We're starving!

We follow Maria to her favourite pizza place -- Tony's Pizza Palace.  We're in luck, they're still open!  We order one large "Sal's" and one medium vegetarian to go.  The waiters try to ply us with liquor as we wait, but our drivers have already had a pint each, so we'll wait.

Dinner in hand and a bottle of wine in the trunk, we follow Maria back to the house and grab some plates and glasses.  She has not led us astray, this is really good pizza!  The wine (an Okanagan Merlot) is quite lovely, too. :-)

We chat some more -- well, quite a bit more -- and realize it's quarter to two.  We decide it's time for our beauty rest and call it a night.

Musically -- even in miniature!


  1. So... I am learning that the life of a musician on the road is not easy.

    I am learning that you both have resilient spirits, fabulous outlooks and an ability to accept that transcends ego.

    And, I am learning -- what happened at The St. James Corner Pub wasn't all that unusual!


    (Doesn't mean I like it -- just means I can quit beating myself up!) :)

    And.... I am learning -- you guys are great! But then, I'd already figured that out.

    Hugs -- miss you already. Look forward to setting something up for october :)

    ANd btw -- seriously? The joint was called, The Haven? I didn't hear the name as the Haven when you told me here.

  2. Oh, Louise, please DO NOT beat yourself up -- ESPECIALLY since you saved the day on many occasions for this gig, and were a humungous part of the Silver Lining!!!

    And none of the gigs on this tour have even come close to winning the "Worst Gig Ever", trust me! (Don't forget, I toured with a rock band...) In Brights history, I think the worst was the cafe where the drunken owner cried through all our songs and kept taking the young female staff members to his office in five-minute intervals... Pretty gross. Although even there, we met some lovely professors who were completely enthusiastic about our music so... there's always some sort of silver lining (some are fainter than others!).

    Like any profession, this one has its ups and downs -- it ain't glamorous! But we get so much from the ups, it's easy to survive the downs.

  3. Oh yes, and it was called The Haven! Seemed like it would be a good place to play, as long as you could bring in your own crowd.

    And we miss you too -- but will hopefully see you again in a few weeks! (Geez, we're spoiled...)